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I have been experimenting with nutrition since 1990 and keep journals about my observations. Over time, I tried
several different diets - ranging from the politically correct ones to the highly controversial, along with diets of my
own design. Although diets vary in their effectiveness - some can be very harmful - my general observation is that
a healthy diet plays an essential role in the overall scheme of well being. Furthermore, there is no one diet that
will work for everybody.
Benefits of healthy eating
Eating the natural foods humans are well adapted at utilizing, enhances the ability to cope with the reality of every
day life. This in essence
Good health can lead to a better and more fulfilling life.
improves the probability of living a longer, healthier and happier life. Quality food consumption becomes
especially important in the present world of high stress and pollution - making a healthy diet an essential aspect of
personal health care.
Good health is the most important thing in life because it gives freedom. Freedom to pursue dreams and do all the
things that poor health won't permit. Any significant health problem, chronic or acute, will bring your life balance
out of order. Not just your own bodily balance but everything and anybody you normally interact with will be
affected. Many relationships and activities will suffer in some way or may have to be limited. You may not be able
to fully support yourself and may have to rely on others. Illness strains relationships by making life of those around
you more difficult. Basically a myriad of different problems will arise from poor health. Ultimately poor health
limits what one can do in life.
Common benefits of healthy eating habits are better health and a sense of well being, better sleep, improved
physical endurance and strength, sharper mental abilities and lower sleep requirements. Furthermore, no or little
time, and money, and energy is spend on doctors, hospitals and health insurance bills.
What is a healthy diet?
Hunter-gatherers living on their traditional diets are virtually free of heart, cancer and other degenerative diseases
common in the western world.
Since this article deals with healthy eating habits, a question remains to be answered: what constitutes a healthy
diet? Unfortunately, there are more opinions about this than there are health experts. To further complicate the
matter, dietary concepts change over time, leaving many confused and uncertain about what or whom to trust.
One solution to this problem is to become sufficiently knowledgeable about the relevant subjects and draw
reasonable conclusions. Along with ongoing personal experimentation, such approach will enable you to establish
healthy eating habits that work especially well for your body and mind.
In order to determine the minimal basic requirements of a healthy diet, I concluded that it is safe to start with the
following two objectives:
examine human diet over time - the foods humans consumed since the arrival of our species.
examine diets of ethnic groups known for their good health.
The traditional living Okinawans and people from the other Ryukyu Islands have the highest longevity in the world.
This is partly attributed to diet, but also to other factors such as lifestyle, genetics, and mental well being.
Looking at the type of diets humans lived on through out pre-history, provides good insights into the kind of foods
human body is well adapted at utilizing and dealing with. Further, the diets of certain ethnic groups that are well
known for good health - the people of Okinawa (Japan); traditional cultures in the Mediterranean region; and
many hunter-gatherer societies - suggest certain healthy eating habits that promote good health.
Upon closer examination of the above mentioned objectives, two main denominators emerged:
A) traditional diets are based on natural, whole or minimally processed foods in accordance to heritage.
B) traditional diets are lower in calories and are more nutrient rich compared to a typical western diet.
In the context of present time, one can therefore make two general assumptions in regard to the question of what
constitutes a healthy diet: 1) generally, the less a food is processed the better. 2) eat less - eat what is adequate,
do not overeat.
Generally, the less a food is processed the better
The Homo genus includes modern humans and species closely related to them, and has been estimated to be
about 2.3 to 2.4 million years old. Thus starting with our earliest ancestors, for 99.9% of the existence of our genus
we lived on foods that were either raw or minimally processed. The technology needed to increase food
processing did not exist until very recently. It is therefore reasonable to assume that our bodies are best adapted
at utilizing and dealing with the raw or minimally processed foods which sustained us, and our predecessors, for
millions of years: fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and seeds.
Peaches are a good source of vitamin C and fiber.
Often, the more recent the food is, the more likely it is to be less beneficial or even directly harmful - possibly due
to lack of full adaptation to such foods. Food cooking started about 500 000 - 250 000 years ago (depending on the
source, the range may vary). During this time frame human species have adapted to simply cooked vegetables and
animal foods. On the other hand, the beginnings of grain consumption are much more recent. Evidence of earliest
known, systematical collecting of grains for food goes back to about 23 000 years ago - giving less time for
adaptation to grain based foods.
Over time humans started processing the natural foods to an increasingly higher degree. Extracting and mixing
food ingredients according to taste while largely neglecting nutritional value. Consider all the new, highly
processed foods so popular today: fast food, pizza, sweets, chips, processed meats, sugary breakfast cereals,
energy drinks, soft drinks, etc. Such foods are made from low quality ingredients and are often high in sugar, salt
Regular consumption of such energy dense foods, often coupled with excessive intake of popular stimulants like
caffeine and nicotine, gave rise to the hyper-active, haphazard, fast-forward cultural norms of today that increase
stress levels and worsen health problems. Obviously, processed foods pollute and destabilize mental faculties and
thus hinder their proper development and function.
The dramatic rise in heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, cancers, diabetes, liver and kidney problems is a
byproduct of our modern lifestyle. Fortunately, healthy eating habits can help relieve or even eliminate completely
many chronic health issues caused by unhealthy diet.
Considering the declining health of most western nations as opposed to good health of the ethnic groups
described above, it seems reasonable that many of the most recent food inventions are directly harmful to human
health. Further, it has been repeatedly observed that as ethnic groups around the world adopt the modern
western diet, their health dramatically declines and they develop the same diseases that are so common to
westerners. Not to mention the fact that the above diseases were far less common among westerners themselves
barely 100 years ago.
Raw vegetables help improve digestion.
The more food is processed - through excessive cooking, pasteurization, homogenization, high heat, mechanical
processing, etc, - the less natural and nutritious it becomes to a point of becoming a harmful burden to the body,
rather than a useful and health promoting food. Some industrial processing practices deprive food of their
nutrients to such high degree that the food has to be "enriched" by artificially adding some nutrients back into the
food. This is especially true of flours where some vitamins are added after the processing is done.
A good diet is based on natural, whole or minimally processed foods. Some of it should consist of foods that can
be eaten raw, such as vegetables and small amount of fruits. Healthy eating habits can also include fermented or
cultured, unpasteurized foods such as kefir, yogurt, cheeses, miso, sauerkraut and pickles. These probiotic foods
are considered highly beneficial in many cultures. Cooking should be minimal and only applied to foods that must
be cooked in order to be edible. Ancestral heritage also plays an important role as certain foods may need to be
excluded or emphasized.
Eat less - eat what is adequate, do not overeat
Natural diet is essential to good health of any animal. Cows that freely graze on fresh plants out in the open,
rather than being fed grains or corn, are healthy and result in healthy foods.
During the past several decades, food in the western and westernized nations became increasingly affordable and
more readily available than ever before in human history. This very fact combined with the enjoyment and stress
relief that food consumption brings results in all too frequent over eating. Which leads to a variety of chronic
In the past, as in the traditional way of living among the ethnic groups mentioned earlier, food consumption has
been lower. Food quality, on the other hand, has been higher, with few energy dense foods that are so common
Finally, as an interesting note, it has been repeatedly confirmed through laboratory experiments on animals,
including monkeys, that cutting down calories considerably lowers their susceptibility to diseases and prolongs
their life up to 50%. Some scientists believe that life long caloric restriction can have similar effects on humans.
However, such diets are not for everybody, since for most people healthy eating needs to be satisfying in terms of
Health promoting eating habits
Over time, through learning and experimenting, I worked out many healthy eating habits. I list the most important
below. I feel they are essential to creating a solid foundation for good health. If you'd like to experiment with
them, try one at a time, say for a few weeks, and observe how you feel. You may find that they will work quite well
Avoid or minimize:
Sugar and processed foods. The worst type of foods are highly processed foods and foods that are high in simple
carbohydrates or sugar. Generally, such foods are often high in calories, low in important nutrients, and contain
unhealthy fats and processed salt. Regular consumption of such foods has been linked with a variety of diseases
including obesity, diabetes, immune system disorders, fungi overgrowth, cardiovascular diseases, malnutrition and
The following processed foods are particularly harmful to health and should be avoided: all junk food, chips, soft
drinks, sweets, sugary breakfast cereals, processed meats like sausages or ham or salami, many refined or white
flour foods, many canned foods that are high in fat or sugar or salt. These foods are typically made from low
quality ingredients, are of poor nutritional value, can contain unhealthy fats like trans-fats, often contain sugar or
large amounts of processed salt, and have chemical additives added to them (some of which are known to be
Sugar is actually so harmful to health that efforts are being made to raise the awareness that sugar should be
controlled like alcohol and tobacco to protect public health. Regular consumption of foods that are naturally high
in simple sugars or foods that have been added sugar may be the leading cause, or a major contributing factor to
diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Sugar foods include but are not limited to: most commercial yogurts, kefirs, juices, soft drinks, ice cream, energy
drinks, honey, dried fruits, maple syrup, jams, sweet breakfast cereals, and sweets of any kind (cookies, desserts,
chocolate, candy, etc). Generally, anything that tastes sweet has sugar or artificial sweeteners in it and should be
avoided. The only exception is fresh or cooked fruit which can be eaten in small quantities (a handful a day, I write
more about fruit eating later in this article).
For best results all processed and sugar foods should be completely eliminated from any healthy eating plan.
Damaged or oxidized fats and high heat cooking. Avoid all refined or overly heated fats: margarine, any oil that is
not cold pressed, leftover fat from cooking, all foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats and
trans fatty acids. Read the labels. Such fats are considered to be among the most health damaging foods due to
their damaged (oxidized) state (or the ease at which oxidation happens in them).
Other foods to avoid include: polyunsaturated oils (except cold pressed in small quantities), any meat or fat that
has been exposed to high heat like frying or grilling, powdered eggs and dairy (often found in baked goods),
homogenized dairy products (except butter and cream, which are not homogenized), aged meats and cheeses and
baked goods that contain dairy.
Do not cook meat or fat at very high temperatures while exposed to air. Such practice will avoid fat and
cholesterol oxidation - believed to be responsible for build up of arterial plaque and injury to arterial cells. Grilling
and frying is especially harmful. Avoid eating the outer layer of meat and fat cooked in hot air, like in the oven.
Steaming, baking, or cooking in water through gentle simmering, are probably the healthiest ways of cooking
meats and vegetables.
Polluted foods. Avoid or minimize consumption of foods polluted with unnatural, toxic or other unhealthy
substances. Avoid consumption of fish and water animals unless certain they came from unpolluted waters.
Especially predatory fish should be avoided as toxins accumulate in them in greater quantities. Minimize intake of
all plant and plant based foods sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals commonly used to cultivate them.
Avoid meats from animals treated with hormones and antibiotics. The best way to avoid all these harmful
ingredients is to buy organic foods whenever possible. Later in this article I describe which foods are especially
high in pollutants.
Omega 6 Polyunsaturated fatty acids. Keep the intake of foods high in omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids
(PUFAs) within healthy range. It is very easy to get too many omega 6 PUFAs because they are found in so many
foods. Omega 6 PUFAs are found mainly in nuts and seeds and any products made from them (mostly oils) and
containing them. Especially commercially baked goods like breads and cookies and butter substitutes. They are
also found in meat fat, especially fat from commercially raised animals is high in omega 6. Virtually all oils, except
olive, flax, palm and coconut oils are high in omega 6 PUFAs, and some of them are widely used in commercial
food production due to their low cost.
Omega 6 PUFAs are especially dangerous when consumed in excess. PUFAs are unstable, they oxidize readily
resulting in health damaging free radicals. High omega 6 PUFA intake have been repeatedly linked with cancer,
heart and inflammatory diseases. If you are suffering from any of these diseases, reduce intake of all food sources
high in omega 6 PUFAs from your diet - nuts, seeds, oils made from them and foods containing them.
NOTE: Omega 6 along with another family of PUFAs called omega 3 are essential for health. It is when one gets too
much or too little of any one of them that problems arise. Which unfortunately is very common in the west. Many
people are deficient in omega 3 and consume excessive amounts of omega 6. It is essential to keep the intake of
these fatty acids within recommended range. Although nobody knows what the ideal range is, most experts seem
to agree that the ratio between omega 3 to omega 6 should be between 1:2 to 1:10. I can only recommend to
experiment with different rations to find out what works best for you.
Mary G. Enig, PhD, a well known authority on fatty acids, writes in the "Know your fats" book that the minimum
intake of essential fatty acids should be 1 - 1.5% of energy (kcal) from omega 3, and 2 - 3% of energy (kcal) from
omega 6. So on a 2000 kcal diet one needs at least 2.2 - 3.3 grams omega 3 and 4.4 - 6.7 grams omega 6. (For me,
such intake would be too high in omega 3 and much too low in omega 6)
Rich sources of omega 3 are flax seeds/oil, fish oil and fatty sea fish. All plant oils except olive, palm, flax and
coconut are relatively high in omega 6, as are most seeds and nuts. Sunflower and sesame seeds are an especially
rich whole food source. A few small handfuls a week of fresh nuts or seeds is healthy, especially if you eliminate all
sources of processed foods high in omega 6 PUFA. Walnuts are especially good as they contain a good ratio
between omega 3 and 6.
Fungi and mycotoxins. Minimize or eliminate consumption of unfresh foods that are especially prone to fungi and
mycotoxin contamination: alcoholic beverages, spices, wheat, rye, barley, corn, peanuts, dried fruits and (even
slightly) damaged fresh fruits. Mycotoxins are poisonous substances produced by certain molds and fungi which
can cause a wide range of health problems including cancer, asthma, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. To minimize
the health risk of these foods, make sure to buy only organic brands that come from reputable manufacturers and
buy them as fresh as possible. The longer a food has been stored the greater its chance of becoming contaminated
with molds and fungi. A couple of days is often enough for bread in the kitchen to get contaminated with invisible
(at first) patches of molds. Always wash grains clean, and then cook them thoroughly by boiling them for at least
few minutes before further cooking. This will lower the content of possible fungi in the grain. Mycotoxins are very
heat resistant, even frying or roasting does not eliminate them.
I know from experience that any food that is not too fresh but tastes normal, often causes me aura migraine
headache. This is especially true of breads that are high in rye or wheat. Same goes for dried fruits, some spices,
and many peanuts varieties. I suspect this could be due to the effect mycotoxins or fungi have on the liver (vision
and liver function are closely related) as these foods are the only ones that cause me the aura migraine.